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Read our latest newsletter: February 2017.

Domestic violence deaths 'most predictable types'

After an apparent murder-suicide was discovered Wednesday in Framingham, advocates for the victims of domestic violence echoed the same sentiment over and over: One is too many.

“We know that it is one of the most predictable types of homicide,” said Mary Gianakis, director of Voices Against Violence, a program of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council. She ticked off increases in frequency or severity of violence, access to weapons, extreme jealousy and threats as signs that a batterer may be escalating to the point of lethality.

But those warnings signs can be hard to see.

“One of the things that we know about most batterers is that they're not violent in their other relationships,” Gianakis said.

Maureen Casey, director and facilitator for the Prevention of Abuse and Violence (P.A.V.E.) batterer intervention program, painted the picture of a pillar of the community with his arm around his partner, making the victim appear well looked after when, in reality, the abuser is exercising more control.

“‘How does she feel when you're hovering over her and everyone thinks that she’s the crazy one?’” Casey said she asks the men she works with. Often, those men have not considered the victim's reaction.

That feeling of isolation makes it difficult for victims to reach out and ask for help.

Toni Troop, Jane Doe Inc.'s communication director, said victim advocate programs hope “the public understands that they're not alone, that there are people there for (victims) to turn to and seek help.”

“We will typically see a spike in hotline calls after an incident like this,” said Gianakis, referring to the Framingham deaths. “It's really frightening, if you're currently in a violent relationship to hear, to know.”

Last year, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a multi-faceted domestic violence bill that included a provision keeping batterers’ names out of the police log.

“i could make a strong argument on either side of that,” Gianakis said, pointing out the sense of protection victims gain from knowing their abuser’s name won’t be immediately in print. Unfortunately, she said, that sense of safety can extend beyond its intended beneficiaries.

“People in our community who are committing violent acts against their partners shouldn't feel protected by a law that (…) keeps their name out of a police log. That's the place where I struggle a bit with that law.”

Casey said she feels similarly split, on the one hand recognizing that an ensuing arraignment is public, but on the other, wanting the community to know who the offenders are. She has no such qualms about a“cooling off” period before an alleged abuser is released from custody.

“If that victim is going, she's got six hours to get her stuff together,” Casey said. “(Usually) they're leaving with what's on their back. Now at least they have six hours; they can at least pack their kid’s favorite toy.”

If you or someone you know is being affected by domestic violence, find support here:

Voices Against Violence hotline: 800 593-1125

P.A.V.E.: 978-343-2433 x6108


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